Overview of Social Security Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to workers who are unable to keep working due to a disabling condition, illness, or disease. Those receiving SSDI monthly benefits must meet certain requirements to qualify.

Workers who apply for SSDI must have a work history and must have paid Social Security taxes during their previous employment. Workers are given “credits” for their past work history and must meet a certain amount of credits to apply for SSDI. They also must have recent work experience, which is all calculated based upon a person’s age. Their disability must be expected to last for at least one year or be expected to lead to the worker’s death. The SSA has a detailed list of accepted medical disabilities that is routinely updated. Examples of disabilities include, but are not limited to:

• Cardiovascular disorders – chronic heart failure, congenital heart disease, peripheral arterial disease
• Immune system disorders – HIV, inflammatory arthritis, scleroderma
• Respiratory disorders – cystic fibrosis, asthma, persistent lung infections
• Malignant diseases – lymphoma, breast cancer, leukemia, carcinoma
• Mental disorders – mental retardation, schizophrenia, anxiety related disorders, autistic disorder, personality disorders.
There are many more examples of medical disabilities in the SSA’s handbook. There are also examples of conditions not listed in the handbook that would qualify a person for SSDI.

In order to prove a disability, applicants must provide detailed medical information including medical histories, treatments, medications, and the contact information for all doctors who treated the applicant. They must prove to the SSA that their condition is disabling enough that they cannot perform basic work functions such as sitting, writing, lifting, or using cognitive memory skills. They must also show that they have tried treatments or medications that have not helped improve the condition.

Some workers who apply for SSDI are not able to continue with their current work due to a disability. However, if the SSA rules that the worker is able to perform any different form of work, even if the type of work pays less than their current work, they do not meet the definition of disabled.